Debden Park High School has marked the first anniversary of the tragic death of student Harley Watson with a number of events to help students to remember Harley and to focus on being kind to each other and the local community.

All students and staff were asked to wear something green today (Wednesday) - the first anniversary of Harley's death - and to donate £1 towards the Essex and Herts Air Ambulance.

The idea came from students in Harley's tutor group as green was Harley's favourite colour.

The school also chose today as the day to launch its Reverse Advent Calendar when students are encouraged to take into school items for families who may struggle over the Christmas period.

In addition, the school commissioned local artist Heather Downing to create a sculpture of three friends at the entrance to the school's artificial turf which is a fitting location given Harley's love of football.

Harley's year group had the first opportunity to see the sculpture after an assembly at noon was led by Rev'd Chris Davies, the rector of St John's Church in Loughton.

The whole school then joined together at 12.08pm - as Harley was 12 years old and a Year 8 student - for a two-minute clap in memory of Harley.

Head of School Helen Gascoyne said: "A year on from the tragic events, as a school, we are still reeling from the shock of losing Harley and we are determined to turn such a traumatic event into something positive for our students and the local community."

The rector of St John's Church has described the death of 12-year-old Harley Watson in a hit-and-run crash outside the school a year ago as "the darkest event" he has ever known remembering the Year 8 student as "a friend who brought light and love around him".

Rev'd Chris Davies, speaking at a special assembly at the school today on the first anniversary of Harley's death, said the tragedy had brought a community together with Debden Park High School becoming "a stronger community" in the days that followed.

Rev'd Davies addressed the school as staff and students gathered to remember Harley who was among a group of people struck by a car near the school at the end of the school day on December 2 last year.

He said: "Those days of a year ago will be with me for a very long time. I remember the phone calls, I remember being with you as we tried to come together to try and understand what had happened. I remember that next week, the vigil, the tributes and the letting go of balloons.

"As I look back on that time a year ago, I am confident that Harley is now in Heaven, flying with the angels.

Rev'd Davies added: "I remember today how that tragic event brought a community together, I remember how you all pulled together. I remember how you talked and shared with each other, how Debden Park High School became a stronger community and how in the pain you got through.

"At this time of year when it's almost dark when you go home, in Church we think a lot about the light coming at Christmas through the birth of Jesus.

"I remember from that week how I witnessed the light break through, that even in the darkest event I have ever known I remember how the light broke through.

"I am confident how this light continues to break through, for some of you that has been easier than for others, for some the light has broken through one little glimpse at a time but I know the darkness doesn’t overcome the light.

"So today I choose to remember that light.I remember Harley in the light, not in the darkness of tragedy but in the light of a community that got through it through the love of each other.

"I remember today Harley in the Light, a young man who you all knew better than me, a friend who brought light and love around him, a boy who could make you laugh, a friend who always had a chat, a friend who would cross the road to come and help, a friend who brought light to all those around him. I remember the Harley I knew, on stage, entertaining others and bringing light.

"When I remember him like that, I can't help but smile and laugh. So today I encourage you all to remember, smile and laugh, don’t today remember the tragedy, remember your memories, and smile.

"Today we remember the boy we loved, and we together share our stories, laugh and smile. "We don’t stand in darkness but are surrounded in light.

"So as this day goes on tell the stories of the Harley you knew, share the pictures on your phones.

"Today is not a day to be glum, but a day to smile and laugh as we remember our friend Harley.

"There is a line from an old poem that says 'you can shed tears that he is gone, Or you can smile because he has lived'."

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